By Nance Ebert, Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – There are models across the country where classroom learning extends outdoors. The students, in a very hands-on approach, get to implement and support what is presented within the confines of the building and establish a very meaningful connection.
This year, the Home Depot in Shrewsbury approved a grant for almost $30,000 to build gardens at each public school in town. While a couple of the schools may have an existing area with garden beds, the plan is to extend these areas to encompass additional areas of the curriculum and academic standards from the Massachusetts Frameworks. Planning, measuring, researching, composting, weather, animal life cycles, nutrition and more are all part of this next phase and the Shrewsbury community could not be more excited.
“A Farm to School Program is important because it empowers a new generation of children to make healthy eating choices, learn to grow food, and connect at local farms by using an approach which integrates the classroom, cafeteria and the community,” said Bryan Moss, founder of Sustainable Shrewsbury and a parent of children at the Walter J. Paton Elementary and Oak Middle schools. “School gardens provide the real-life context for learning across all disciplines – math, science, art, language, arts, foreign languages and more. By engaging students in hands-on opportunities that establish meaningful connections to the curriculum, the gardens will help children connect the dots by showing them where their food comes from and how their food choices impact their bodies, the environment and their communities at large.”
“Parker Road Preschool had already partnered with Home Depot and the entire school community has maintained the garden for four years now,” said School Nurse Kristin Stewich. “Watering, weeding and planting are done by all staff and students as needed”
Parker has a garden committee that includes Stewich, Jenn Vengel, Maria Grimshaw, Donna Crowley, Dominic Ruggiere, Chris Tighe (Home Depot associate), and Scott Selmecki (Home Depot manager), she noted.
One mission of the “farm to table” initiative is the fact that many simply want clean food in the schools. Food that is grown in these gardens promotes local food served in the cafeterias and there is a direct understanding about the food and its origin with those eating it.
Students and teachers have been busy discussing what they want to grow, creating maps, researching ecosystems, sustainability and physical features of growing spaces and more. There is also much discussion about ways to make each garden space accommodate and be accessible to everyone. The Shrewsbury community will also benefit tremendously by this project.